Ex-TESDA chief’s wife gets 16 years over PDAF scam

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Former Iloilo second district representative Judy Syjuco has been sentenced to up to 16 years in prison for misuse of P20 million of her Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel in 2006.

In a 34-page decision promulgated on Nov. 12, the Sandiganbayan’s Special Second Division found Syjuco, former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general for field operations Santiago Yabut Jr. and Maria Nela Yniesta, president of Tagipusuon Foundation Inc., “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” of two counts of graft.

Syjuco, Yabut and Yniesta were found guilty of violating Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits public officials from giving unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference to a private party or from causing any party, including the government, undue injury.

The three were also found guilty of violating Section 3 (g) of RA 3019, which prohibits a public official from entering into any contract or transaction manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government.

They were sentenced to six to eight years in prison for each offense and perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

The court ordered the three to pay the government P6.985 million in civil damage.

The cases filed against Syjuco’s husband, former TESDA director general Augusto Syjuco Jr., were dismissed following his death in January 2020.

The Office of the Ombudsman, which filed the cases in 2014, said Syjuco’s PDAF was coursed through TESDA, which was chaired by her husband at the time.

The ombudsman said Tagipusuon, the non-goverment organization chosen to implement Syjuco’s scholarship project, was founded and owned by the former TESDA chief.

Graft probers said Tagipusuon was chosen despite its lack of qualifications to implement the project.

The court said the ombudsman’s prosecution panel established that there was no proper liquidation of the funds received by Tagipusuon.

The court gave weight to a Commission on Audit report which showed that P5.298 million of the disbursed fund ”remains missing and unliquidated.”

Tagipusuon used P1.687 million for its administrative and other expenses unrelated to the scholarship project such as hotel expenses, communication expenses and payment of water and electricity bills, the court added.

“Clearly, public funds in the amount of P20 million from the PDAF of Syjuco was misused when unwarranted benefits were given to Tagipusuon Cooperative, causing undue injury to the government,” the special second division declared.

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